By on May 2, 2017

'Distracted Driving Law In Effect' Road Sign, Image: Public Domain

Back in 2012, a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) spokesman said one reason southeastern Michigan had seen an increase in traffic crashes and deaths is because the area is more urbanized, thus has more motorists than the rest of the state.

In a column the next day on The Michigan ViewThe Detroit News political website, I countered the spokesperson’s claim, arguing “more motorists” logically explained “why” there are more accidents and deaths in urbanized areas, but did not explain the increasing frequency of those rates. (That column is also featured in my second book, Jimmy Hoffa Called My Mom a Bitch: Profiles in Stupidity. Pardon the self-promotion.)

What could be behind the rise after years of declining numbers? Maybe, I argued, it was a regulation legislators began enacting in SE Michigan, the state, and — in fact — the entire country in 2007: the ban on texting while driving.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, “Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 4 have primary enforcement. Of the 4 states without an all driver texting ban: 3 prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and one restricts school bus drivers from texting.”

Don’t get me wrong! Texting while driving is stupid and dangerous. Car and Driver conducted a test in 2008 that concluded it was as bad as or worse than drunk driving. But like many new laws or drugs designed to fix an ailment, sometimes the side effects of the cure are worse than the disease.

Who are the biggest violators of texting while driving? An AT&T survey last year found adults (being honest) admit to texting while driving more often than (lying-like-a-rug) teenagers – 49 percent to 43 percent. I think that survey was as solid as the presidential election polling, and I contend the biggest violators of texting while driving are our youngest drivers, who serendipitously just happen to be the crappiest drivers. Great, huh?

In a KPMG study released several years ago, its researchers, in a conference call in which I participated, said they found kids don’t believe “texting is getting in the way of their driving.” Instead, they believe “driving is getting in the way of their texting.” That’s why the ban has failed. What the ban succeeded in doing was forcing young drivers to hold their handheld devices even lower to avoid detection, which means their eyes are now off the road longer. Good plan.

In 2010, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found “texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all. In a perverse twist, crashes increased in 3 of the 4 states we studied after bans were enacted. It’s an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws.”

To be fair, a 2016 study found states that had some form of a texting ban saw a 2.3 percent decrease in overall motor vehicle fatalities, but researchers could not show a “cause and effect.” Was it safer cars, better roads, stricter enforcement, or the texting ban? They couldn’t say.

I choose to stick with the Insurance Institute’s science and my own anecdotal experience that says texting while driving is still a clear and present danger — perhaps more so now as laws have driven motorists to divert their attention below dashboard level instead of above it where it belongs.

So, how do we fix this conundrum? Simple, really. Configure phones so users cannot text while moving faster than, say, three miles per hour.

And here’s how that solution would be bogusly assailed.

First, the device manufacturers could claim foul, saying such a solution would add new technology costing gazillions of dollars. Ah, no; the necessary technology is already widely available on almost all phones today. It’s called GPS.

Big Brother conspiracy theorists will come up with some stupid claim while sitting on the couch in mommy and daddy’s basement. Someone will cry out, “What if I am in an accident and I need to text?” Well, if you’re in an accident, chances are your vehicle is not moving — unless, of course, you are plummeting off an enormous cliff, in which case, what exactly do you want to text?

By the way, calling 911 would always work.

Some will argue it does nothing for older phones without the technology. Those are few and far between as most people turn over their cell devices more often than they change their tires. (This somewhat legitimate argument is the reason you keep the texting-while-driving ban in place and actually increase the fine to something completely nasty with many zeros.)

Somewhere there has to be a sound libertarian argument that proves this solution faulty. Oh, here it is: What if you are a passenger on a train? Aha, got ya, Vines! But that’s where GPS jumps into action again. It would be easy for the system to determine if you are on a train and let you text your little heart out. If you’ve been on Amtrak lately, you’ll know you can track your every moment on a trip.

How about when your airplane lands, you‘re taxiing to the gate, and you need to text? You can’t wait five minutes? Nice try, Alec Baldwin.

Now, there is one legitimate beef about this proposal: What about car passengers? Two responses — one that would cost nothing and another that adds cost (thus price) to both phones and vehicles.

The freebie is to say “too bad” to the passengers and to get their calls and texts out of the way before getting in the vehicle. If a call or text is necessary, have your driver pull over and stop. In 2016, insurance giant Geico teamed with the New York State DOT to rebrand “rest stops” as “text stops.”

The option that increases cost also requires coordination between cell providers, phone manufacturers, and the auto industry to work out the technology required to locate an individual’s position within a car so it can block certain functions. This is not far-fetched, as this type of technology has been available for years in air bag and safety belt systems technology. Admittedly, it will raise the cost of both phones and vehicles, but — spread over tens of millions of phones and vehicles — I believe it would be a cost-effective answer to a deadly issue that’s not going away anytime soon.

But here’s the non-starter: What would we do about the tens of millions of vehicles on the road without the technology? That’s a real problem, which brings me back to the correct solution: get your calls and texts out of the way, driver and passengers, before you hit the road, or stop if you need to make a call or text. It seems to me we did just fine with that prior to the widespread use of cell phones, and passengers back then did something that seems almost quaint today — they talked to each other.

Some will argue there are many hands-free texting and calling options on today’s vehicles. Yes, there are, and they have been around for years and are getting better all the time. Regardless, the brain is still disconnected or semi-disconnected from the primary purpose of getting from point A to point B.

I bought a bumper sticker in a “head shop” in downtown Wilmington, NC, two years ago that summed it up for me: “Put down the cell phone and concentrate on being a shi–y driver.”

Jason Vines is a former automotive industry PR professional who’s worked for Chrysler (twice), Nissan, and Ford — during the Firestone tire crisis. He went on to work for Compuware in Detroit, before diving into the complex world of Bible publishing. He’s the author of “What Did Jesus Drive?: Crisis PR in Cars, Computers, and Christianity” and co-author of “The Last American CEO,” a behind-the-scenes account of Chrysler’s purchase of American Motors. He currently resides in North Carolina.

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77 Comments on “That’s Off-The-Record: Textual Healing Redux...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    “one reason southeastern Michigan had seen an increase in traffic crashes and deaths is because the area is more urbanized, thus has more motorists than the rest of the state.”

    at least part of that is horse-pucky. The worst roads and intersections are in places like northern Macomb County (e.g. Utica, Shelby Twp.) and western Oakland (e.g. Canton) because everyone just *has* to get away from those scary brown people moving out of Detroit. So now you’ve got massive new neighborhoods and subdivisions built up where the “main” roads are one lane each direction with no left turn lane. 21 Mile Road is abso-frickin-lutely a disaster on weekdays. Don’t get me started on the mess that is Hall Rd. And Ford Rd. @ Haggerty and again at Lilley in Canton are regularly the top two worst intersections in the state for collisions.

    it’s like someone I work with; he works just south of the city of Detroit and has for 20+ years. yet he moved to Macomb Twp, and sends his kid to high school out past Southfield. and he complains about how much driving he has to do.

    Cry me a river. you make your choices, you own the consequences.

    “So, how do we fix this conundrum? Simple, really. Configure phones so users cannot text while moving faster than, say, three miles per hour.”

    and make the law such that if you’re pulled over for texting while driving, not only do you get a ticket with a stiff fine, your phone gets confiscated and you don’t get it back until you’ve paid the fine. Maybe the withdrawal symptoms will get the message across.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      “and make the law such that if you’re pulled over for texting while driving, not only do you get a ticket with a stiff fine, your phone gets confiscated”

      Interesting idea, but if it’s implemented everybody will just keep an old phone or $10 Craigslist special on-hand to give to the nice officer instead of their real device.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      I would go a step further. 300 dollar ticket, tow the car, impound for three days and confiscate phone for three days as well. It is a common occurrence (for me) to constantly dodge texters behind the wheel- be it on foot or in my car.. and I am not kidding. Small 100 dollar fines do not cut it. It is habit now- you drive and you text. It has to stop.

      • 0 avatar
        jjster6

        Punishment without due process? What about that pesky little document called the US Constitution?

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          what about it? traffic/road offenses are generally civil matters, not criminal. if you park where you’re not supposed to, your car can be towed and impounded requiring you to pay fees to get it back. it’s not like this stuff is unprecedented; nattering “but… but… CONSTITUTION!” doesn’t change things.

          • 0 avatar
            jjster6

            The constitution still applies to ANY interaction between the government and citizens. It is not just for criminal matters.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            Traffic cases are handled like criminal matters. The Vehicle Code makes certain driving behaviors violations of the law. Civil matters are lawsuits by one party against another.
            Your state might be different. Still, confiscating property without a trial is anathema to our nation’s concept of justice, although it happens all too often.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “Traffic cases are handled like criminal matters.”

            And the accused is guilty until they can prove themselves innocent.

            Very, very few people have ever won a speeding ticket. And those who did probably went broke doing it.

            Other citations and violations are no different.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Why does your callous, top-down-solution persona not just propose outlawing all cars without this technology?

    Now, when iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc all operate over data, not SMS, the same data you need for turn-by-turn, how are you going to discriminate between the packets?

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I dont even know what to say….I just read this ….I will come back later once some other have commented and maybe I can get my thoughts together so that they arent taken as an attack on the writer.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I was going to say that I assume the title of his book refers to its author. This is one of the worst, authoritarian pre-crime proposals that I have seen on this site. I would also rebut his “just pull-over” suggestion that I have seen misguided morons pull over in incredibly dangerous places to answer the phone rather than just keep driving.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Simple, really. Configure phones so users cannot text while moving faster than, say, three miles per hour.”

    F that.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Taxis
      Passenger trains
      Cruise lines
      Buses
      Passenger ferries
      Elevators
      Moving sidewalks

      All places where people should be allowed to text at >3 miles per hour. The suggestion is a non-starter.

      • 0 avatar
        operagost

        The author thinks he knows tech, but he doesn’t. What he asks for is Byzantine and harmful to the consumer… mere handwaving. You don’t need to be one of those filthy libertarians to understand that.

        Clearly, he’s too young to remember things like the seat belt interlock fiasco from 1974 that caused such a shitstorm, Congress had to step in. That’s what happened when dumb ideas collide with a lack of technology.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Clearly, he’s too young”

          do you even know who Jason Vines is?

          clearly not, otherwise you wouldn’t have made such a stupid statement.

          • 0 avatar
            newenthusiast

            “Clearly, he’s too young to remember things like the seat belt interlock fiasco from 1974 that caused such a shitstorm, Congress had to step in. That’s what happened when dumb ideas collide with a lack of technology.”

            I disagree with a lot of what is written n this story, FYI.

            But a quick Google search would let you know that Vines is in his mid 50’s. I suspect he does remember 1974. Unless he was a burn out or something then.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll take Correlative Fallacy for 500, Alex.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Traffic fatalities also rise and fall with the price of gas. But what if my cellphone provider is Saul Goodman? Yeah no GPS/Nav on my throwaway flippy phone.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    How would you like to be the first automaker or phone maker to introduce this technology and then watch buyers absolutely flock to other brands? Get this paternalistic horses*** out of here.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    If Hoffa was right, that would explain a lot.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    Does anybody know where one can get solid statistics for the vehicle crash rate per miles driver over time, or some similar statistic?

    It’s easy to find this data for fatality rate, but I’ve not been able to locate it for just crashes generally.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    While his solutions/ideas are a little over the top, I agree with the sentiment. As a victim of a texting-while-driving-teen/early 20s driver.. I have little sympathy for schmucks like him: we were in drive for 30 seconds, stop quickly, wait 10 seconds, drive again for 20 seconds, etc traffic on the freeway, getting close to Santa Cruz. I had already witnessed 3 or 4 panic stops from him in my rearview, including him suddenly looking up, frantically hitting the brakes, etc and I said to my wife: “he’s going to hit us”. Sure enough, 1 or 2 stops later, he did.. Not a huge bang, but when I got out, I saw that he was wearing headphones (both ears – illegal in California), AND holding his phone, which he had clearly been looking down at.

    Our car is older, and normally I might have agreed to work something out enough $$ to repaint the rear bumper. After seeing how he didn’t learn from several panic stops even a few minutes earlier, I felt it was important to let it go through insurance and let him feel the pain and hopefully change his ways. The next time, it could be a much more severe collision.

    As for “phone is not in the driver’s seat”, it would be a very small area, something GPS can’t detect, AFAIK, unless they enable military accuracy. Even then, they’ll just lean their whole body over to text – those who are intent on texting while driving are sociopaths of the same order as DUI drivers in my books.

    Here in the Bay Area, I see almost every 3rd or 4th person between 16-35 texting while in traffic. It’s REALLY frustrating when they wait 10 seconds after the light turns green and I’m behind them, and then they RACE off, cutting other people off, etc, just to do it again at the next light. I would be in favor of $1-5k fines for texting while driving. Enough that you just don’t do it on the odd chance you get caught. But, we all know that young adults don’t have proper risk-evaluation centers in their brains ready, so even that wouldn’t deter people.

    • 0 avatar
      Deontologist

      Hahaha you think stiff fines are the solution. Alaska had a 10,000 dollar fine for texting, and they had to reduce it. Why? Because a fine that big made it a criminal case and few cops were willing to go though the ordeal of a trial to prove the perp had been texting and driving.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Okay so the ban isn’t causing more crashes/fatalities. Dumbass entitled humans breaking the law because they can’t put away their electronic narcissism long enough to drive safely is causing more crashes/fatalities.

    I guess a lower speed limit will cause more fatalities too, because the criminals who choose to break the law will just continue to do so. Poor poor criminals, won’t anyone think of the criminals?

    So you’re blaming the law when it’s the full-retard “F the law, it’s all about ME” disregard for safety of self and others that cause the problems in the first place? You’re part of the problem.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    No texting while car moving is going to be unfortunate for that coed in trunk getting transported to nearest national forest.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      yes, because that happens so often.

      what next? we can’t do this because if someone gets their sleeve caught in the outside door of a 757, they won’t be able to text for help because they’re being dragged at 550 mph?

  • avatar
    -Nate

    What the hell ~
    .
    I ordered your Jimmy Hoffa book on Amazon just now, we’ll see how well you write .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    The statement about GEICO partnering with NY DOT reminds me. Between Erie PA and Buffalo eastbound on I-90 you get two rest stops. The first one is Angola and the second “texting stop” is like five miles later. So here is the problem. I love me some chick filet. And I loves me some fresh lemonade to wash down my spicy chicken sandwich. So here’s the problem. Eat yummy sandwich, drink heavenly lemonade then squirm for 80 plus miles until you get to the Angola rest stop. I think it is a conspiracy. NY state troopers are staking out I-90 eastbound preying on drivers and the there child passengers who cant hold their lemonade any longer and writing citations for public urination. Stop the madness. Think of the children!

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Semenak

      Depends. Funny, when I was a child we regularly went more than 80 miles on the Freeway without having to, stop and pee on the side of the road. Perhaps, if your child pees BEFORE getting back on the road, they may make an astonishing 80 minutes without incontinence.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    Lame.

    First you admit the possibility that laws against texting while driving merely encouraged drivers to text below the steering wheel and thus take their eyes further way from the road.

    Then, having admitted that people will work around laws, you want an even more pointless law that would make all texting illegal while in motion, and say passengers will just have to get the driver to pull over so they can text.

    Do you even think, bro? This kind of hypocritical attitude, that we MUST PASS A LAW even if it won’t work, is what has given us so many stupid unenforceable laws already.

    Those studies you mentioned had more to say, which you didn’t report. Or maybe it was other similar studies you don’t know about or chose to not report. Because states outlawed texting while driving at different times in different manners, they were able to compare distracted driving accident rates over time and as laws passed, and found that texting before laws against it had no noticeable effect on accident rates, but accident rates shot up when the laws were passed, precisely for the reason you mention — drivers stopped watching the road. What you did not mention was that before it was illegal, drivers intentionally kept the phone above the steering wheel so they could keep enough eye on the road to avoid accidents.

    Sure, texting drivers slow down. But that was the only side effect before distracted driving laws. Drivers went out of their way to be as safe as they could, at the cost of getting in everyone’s way, but not at the cost of being more dangerous.

    Thinking about this objectively for just a few seconds would lead to the obvious conclusion that things were as good as they could get before the laws, that society’s spontaneously-developed response of honking was the best response available, that new laws were a knee jerk response which only made things worse, and that your lame ideas are just piling on the derp.

    Life changes. People deal with it, real-time, pretty damned well. Knee-jerk laws are usually late and delayed and mismatched with reality.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Excellent post, Scarecrow.

      Evidently, the idea to enforce constructive behavior by using technology to strip freedoms from people is working so well in other areas of American life, it’s very very urgent to expand it to this one as well.

      And cooperation between electronics manufacturers, for-profit insurers and the U.S government to restrict citizens’ behavior…what could go wrong?

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Evidently, the idea to enforce constructive behavior by using technology to strip freedoms from people is working so well in other areas of American life,”

        horsecrap. there’s a reason for the old saying “your freedom to swing your fists ends at the tip of my nose.” you’re not “free” to do things which endanger other people.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          That’s true but the saying requires actual endangerment. You can’t force people to tie their arms together when in your vicinity just because they might punch you or because other people have punched you.

          More on topic, even though DUI, recklessness and fatigue cause many accidents; we don’t require everyone driving between 10PM and 3AM to take a breathalyzer/sobriety test or require GPS speed monitoring or force people to take a break after 7 hours on the road.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Much of the DC Metro, when it’s above ground, runs between the lanes of interstate highways. The new Silver Line in particular has long distances between stops. Also, much of the DC Metro is a s**tshow with stations being closed, single tracking, and no actual schedule for the trains to show up at a particular station. I’d prefer to have set off on my journey (which can take two hours or more to go from my stop to downtown) before telling anyone waiting for me when I’ll meet with them. And since you’re supposed to be on alert when people are boarding and exiting the train, that makes it tough to wait until it stops.

    I’m sure there would be an exception made for 911 calls, but there are just too many scenarios where a blanket block wouldn’t work.

    One solution for in-car, if we could solve all the other issues, would be to have all the phones in the car talk to each other and be aware they are together. Since everything is supposed to be connected now anyway, the driver can declare themselves as driving which would allow anyone else in the car to use their device as they like. If no one declares, no one’s device would work other than 911/GPS.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Allow me to introduce you to the cheap phone that lives in the car, and always reports itself as “driving” so I can continue to text and play Angry Birds on my real phone while actually driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        Of course people will find a way around it. But most people are too cheap and/or lazy to really do anything about it.

        This is a problem very similar to the people-are-downloading-music-for-free variety. There’ll always be a segment of the population willing to figure out a way around the rules.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    I have posted before that my phone is off when I drive anyway, as I believe there is no reason to do anything but drive when behind the wheel. So I am open to the author’s position on this, although I think that restricting passengers will mean this proposal is dead in the water.

    He also totally discounts the notion that there are any significant number of people without a smartphone, thus, lacking any sort of GPS or motion detection. He’s wrong.

    I’ll post it below, but Pew’s Research (Jan 2017) shows that 18% of all adults don’t own a smartphone in the USA. As of 2016 the Census Bureau estimates there are 245.3 million adults over the age of 18. 18% of that would be about 44.5 million adults without smartphones. There are an estimated 218 total licensed adult drivers in the US.

    Anyway you slice it, that is a large enough percentage of drivers that would not be affected by his auto-disable above 3mph idea.

    It is not as few and far in between as he would like to think. That’s potentially a maximum of 19% of all adult drivers for whom such technology would be ineffective. (Its very likely lower than that, because there is a correlation between older Americans not owning a smartphone and no longer having a driver’s license. But even if it’s 15% of all drivers, that is still millions of people.)

    I would suggest that the quicker, more cost effective solution is far more heavy handed enforcement, including making it a primary offense, with a very steep fine over using his tech solution. I have yet to hear of a local or state government that would turn down the chance to drive revenue while also legitimately battling a safety issue.

    (Full disclosure: I do not have, nor want, a smartphone.)

    http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

    • 0 avatar

      Heavier enforcement forces police away from other work while annoying the public and costing them money. Pretty much a non starter for the most part. Plus even in states where it’s a primary offense with heavier fines it doesn’t seemed to have an effect. Now you could start pulling people licesense for it but I think that would be an even worse public relations nightmare.

      • 0 avatar
        newenthusiast

        Fair enough points. Although I would argue that drivers and the public SHOULD be annoyed by it. It should be such an aggravation that it causes behaviors to change.

        How else would you enforce/encourage drivers to stay off of the phone while not affecting passengers?

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Heavier enforcement forces police away from other work”

        you mean running speed traps?

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      I’m not arguing with you, but I’d like to point out that even non-smartphones have GPS chips and could be set up to work with the author’s idea. It’s a requirement for e911 compliance, if I’m not mistaken.

      • 0 avatar
        newenthusiast

        E911 required either GPS chips or network based location by means of triangulation between cell towers as of 2005, and had to meet certain accuracy rate FCC standards on average within any given participating PSAP service area by September 11, 2012. There originally was a mandate in 2010 to have all phones GPS enabled by 2012, then 2018, but as of now, that has been tabled indefinitely.

        My phone was purchased in 2010, and was manufactured in 2009. Given its very low price point, and stated specs, I believe my phone does not have a GPS chip or capability. It’s just a phone. No browser, no apps, no email, no maps. It cost $30 to purchase. I can’t think of a phone at that price point at that time that had GPS capability.

        I believe most non-smartphones don’t have it, although there are ‘feature’ phones that have near smartphone capabilities, just with no wi-fi capabilities and sometimes no touchscreens.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          newenthusiast, I was writing test procedures for repaired TracFone phones in 2015 and even the least expensive feature phones had GPS receivers.

          • 0 avatar
            newenthusiast

            I stand corrected. I was unaware that the technology had gotten that inexpensive that even the simplest ones have it. Interesting that a phone with no ability to show you a map or run apps has a GPS receiver just to E-911 compliant. Seems like over kill.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Semenak

      “There are an estimated 218 total licensed ADULT drivers in the US.” Ironically, this is true.

  • avatar
    arach

    OK seriously this tech is stupid, because its too easy to override.

    Do you think I’m going to “deal” with it? no, I’ll override it.

    Anyone under the age of 30 will just install a custom software install. Tons of people do that already, and your just incentivizing people to do it more.

    Anyone else who WANTS to text and drive will just disable GPS or install a GPS faker.

    I’ve used all this stuff for years…

    These would be- just like texting and driving – laws that are unenforceable, add significant costs to everyone for no reason, and easy to circumvent.

    Even if you DON’T text and drive, I’d still rather not have “limits”, sure enforce them on everyone else, but I’ll circumvent them myself…

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      and then when you screw up and injure/kill someone using your circumvented device, I’m sure you won’t mind the criminal and civil penalties.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Have any links or more information on this spoofing software?

    • 0 avatar
      operagost

      Indeed. All one has to do is use one of the apps that provides an SMS gateway.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      arach, the most useful work around would be much better voice-to-text capability combined with a “send” button that provided tactile feedback. People wouldn’t bother to try to type text while driving if voice recognition didn’t require so much infuriating manual intervention and correction. People driving a car by themselves can talk as loud as they want. The reason people text instead of talk on the phone is that the person at the other end of the conversation likely can’t talk without disturbing other people nearby.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        It’s critical to understand the difference between stupid and ignorant .

        Not sure how many here realize there is any difference .

        Anyone who claims there’s no real proof that distracted driving is a real and very large problem, either isn’t paying any attention or is willfully ignoring reality .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    2manycars

    Just how stupid do you have to be to text and drive at the same time? To go and do such a thing would never even occur to a person who has taken as much as a nanosecond to think about it. (In fact I keep my phone OFF when driving. There’s nothing that can’t wait.)

    This is just another data point showing us that young people truly are imbeciles.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Many people won’t behave, but also complain about the cost of insurance and medical care. When you add the disruption and grief resulting from car crashes it supports the argument favoring autonomous cars. Certainly universal driving aids such as automated braking.

  • avatar
    DavesNotHere

    This makes a lot of sense, but unfortunately, NHTSA can’t regulate mobile phones, all they can do is make recommendations. Another sensible proposal would be to force the phone into Driver Mode, locking out certain functionality and simplifying what can be done while driving. Android and Baidu already have this, and Apple should follow with being able to run CarPlay right on the phone. Also, there is plenty of tech in the pipeline now for identifying the driver’s phone (driver-facing camera, seat sensor), while allowing the passengers to use their phones.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I don’t like the nanny aspects of that idea.

    But then again the most frequent hazard to my life and bodily integrity, by a mile, is people looking down at their phones while driving through crosswalks, turning right on red, approaching red lights, etc., etc.

    As a result of that experience, which reinforces itself near-daily on my walking commute, I probably wouldn’t fight the proposal too hard as long as there is tech to ensure that it only applies to the driver, and that passengers can text. Passengers being able to text is a major safety plus.

  • avatar
    truffle_shuffle_steer

    This article is total garbage. It is the worst thing I have read on this site ever. There are many dangerous behaviors people engage in while driving. People get in serious accidents for all sorts of reasons. Is there any data that actually suggests that texting has made driving any more dangerous than it already was? I haven’t seen any. There doesn’t even seem to be any data to suggest that texting is any worse or more significant than any other source of distracted driving.

    Yes texting and driving is bad. So is changing the radio and driving. So is driving while too tired. So is driving on certain medication. So is driving when your over 70 years old and your reaction times have slowed. Should we put people in jail and impound their cars for these? How about we cut off your finger if your found changing the radio station while driving? All cars should come equipped with no interior buttons to avoid risk!

    Every activity in life comes with risk. The goal should be to find the balance where the cost of risk is equal to the cost of prevention. If we spend $10,000 per person per year to avoid an average risk of $2,000 per person per year we are idiots.

    Fundamentally, life exists and it can end. No one is going to live forever. At what point do the rules and regulations that are supposed to protect us and allow us to live our lives prevent us from actually living them?

    • 0 avatar
      newenthusiast

      I agree that the article is problematic.

      However, to answer to your question, the WHO, the NHTSA, the NIH, and CDC (links below) have been studying and compiling data on distracted driving, and it’s correlation to an increase in vehicular collisions, both fatal and non-fatal.

      https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdistracteddriving/index.html

      http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/distracted_driving/en/

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4001674/

      https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812260

      • 0 avatar
        truffle_shuffle_steer

        First of all- people should pay attention when they drive. No doubt distracted driving is bad.

        So I gave the data you cited a quick glance through and I don’t really see the type of death and carnage that would warrant the cost and loss of liberty people like this author are advocating. We are not in the midst of an epidemic. What we are in the midst of is ridiculous legislation that amounts to regressive taxation used to fund the state police and make criminals out of ordinary people.

        But more to the point- none of the data you referenced is about texting or even cell phones (that I saw). How about we fund more education instead of the police?

        The real problem this author has is social mobility. Young and poor people have the ability to get where they need to go and can still *barely* afford it. What he really wants to do is tax and regulate those he deems unfit off the road and out of society.

        • 0 avatar
          newenthusiast

          Wow. I didn’t get any of that, especially anything about taxes, from the piece. I think auto ‘flight mode’ is draconian.

          As far as my links, I believe the biggest issue is that the law enforcement and first responders on the scene of an a accident have difficulty saying for certain that cell phone usage is the absolute cause. Perhaps in a fatal accident that requires further investigation, they can determine that. Distracted driving encompasses many things, only one of which is cell phones.

  • avatar
    operagost

    “That’s a real problem, which brings me back to the correct solution: get your calls and texts out of the way, driver and passengers, before you hit the road, or stop if you need to make a call or text. It seems to me we did just fine with that prior to the widespread use of cell phones, and passengers back then did something that seems almost quaint today — they talked to each other.”

    Yep. Kids these days don’t know how good they have it. *hikes pants back up to belly button level*

    I think more accidents were caused by mom turning around to tell the kids to shut up, and dad trying to reach back to smack them silly, than are caused by adults texting.

    Maybe we should get rid of cruise control, navigation, and power steering. We didn’t need them back in the day, either.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    People get too worked up about the supposed before-the-fact enforceability of laws. Murder is illegal everywhere, and prevented by primary enforcement how often? Yeah, roughly never, but we don’t tend to relax the murder ban on the basis that enforcement is hard. So let’s set that straw man aside, where it belongs.

    My suggestion is an unambiguous ban on texting while driving, and then:
    1) Primary enforcement, which will happen as often as it happens. Driver gets a ticket just like a speeding ticket, with a fine and points. Fine enough to get your attention but not over the top, maybe $100. (The effect on insurance may be the more significant long term discouraging factor). Double the penalty for a second offense, double that for the third, same plus suspended license for X months (feel free to argue over the value of X) after that. Escalate for habitual offenders.
    2) If you’re involved in a crash and can be shown to have been texting in the Y minutes beforehand (you know the drill about Y), rule 1 applies, plus you are automatically considered to have been at fault and will be sanctioned in whatever way the law calls for in other cases of negligent driving.

    Usual opportunity to hire a lawyer and go to court in either case. People with more money to spend may get off – what’s new?

    Neither of these measures can stop people from texting while driving, but they’d point things in the right direction. Over time ordinary people will tend not to text and drive, just as they mostly avoid drinking and driving.

    • 0 avatar

      Here in CT we have one of the toughest texting laws, Primary offense $125.00 first offense $200 next and $450 a third. Ours is also one of the oldest (they banned phones while driving in 2002 I think) despite this we are still above the national average for texting and driving. It’s too common I don’t think there is an actual way to stop it short of taking people licenses and that won’t fly when more then half the adult population admits to it.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I see people texting and driving all of the time. I’ve watched MVC’s occur due to it. People are poor judges of risk.
    They want technology but can’t even use it correctly. I see people talking on their phones and texting even in vehicles that have blue-tooth pairing and on-board systems that negate the need to talk on the phone or text.
    How do you fix stupid?

  • avatar
    zip89123

    It’s not about distracted driving. It’s about more revenue for the police and more ways to harass drivers. I’m not arguing distracted driving exists, but I’d like to see more enforcement of tailgaters and clowns who don’t use turn signals.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “It’s not about distracted driving. It’s about more revenue for the police and more ways to harass drivers.”

      Amen. Cops have a name for it, “Fvcking with the motorists.”

      And it brings in lots of cash money for the budget-constrained court system and the cops.

  • avatar
    Jeff Semenak

    I would love to hear, the millions of complaining libertines explanation of the ‘IMPORTANT’ texts that need an immediate response. 99.9% of these texts being responded to are NOT emergencies. Define ‘Emergency’ in a compelling way and, I am willing to compromise. I am willing to allow texts from the Police or, Emergency Room to be allowed. Mom, I want Jack in the Box would not be an Emergency.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Aside from kids texting to stay in touch, adults like sales people, doctors, lawyers, executives receive ‘IMPORTANT’ texts that need an immediate response.

      This is not a simple matter, but the driver should exercise discretion, and that’s where the cops come in to play.

      My friend got a ticket years ago from the CA Highway Patrol for looking at a road map on his steering wheel while driving.

      Hell, now we look at that same road map on our Garmin or cellphone, while driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Semenak

        The problem is, now we have re-defined ’emergency’ to ‘important’. So, the child checks in, why is that an immediate concern? Is the fact they checked in not acceptable? How did my parents survive without knowing my GPS location? Defining something as important means, everyone will define everything as important. By the way, Lawyers do not need to make an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court at roadside. By definition, all texts responded to are important.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    I have a 15.5 year old daughter aching to start driving.

    It’s real simple: some things are death sentences. One of those is finding the phone anywhere other than the trunk. In the front of the car? Available to you? Death sentence. No more license, no more car, no more driving.

    Train ’em early.

    I remember learning to drive just as the social consciousness discovered, and started teaching and using, seat belts–religiously. My entire driving life, I have never–not once–not worn a seat belt. And the concept of being in a moving car without such a belt seems extremely wrong.

    Train ’em early.

    Phone’s in the passenger compartment, not the trunk? Make it feel weird.

    Death sentence.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Here’s the thing about “pull over to text (or talk, or whatever)”.

    It’s easy to say that if you’re driving in a fairly suburban area where you could duck into a McDonald’s parking lot or in the rural midwest, where many roads have generous shoulders that would accommodate this.

    The vast majority of rural roads in DE, PA, NJ, and NY that I’ve been on are lucky if they have two feet of shoulder and there’s literally no place to stop the car unless you want to block traffic and/or cause an accident. Granted, these are roads that no sane person would want to text while driving on, but that’s not my point.

    My point is that the “Text Stop” program illuminates a basic limitation: it’s hard to stop to do your texting if there isn’t a place to stop to begin with.


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